With its titular confusion between Greek myth and James Bond, the comedy quartet Spymonkey unleash a feast of physical lunacy and narrative wackiness that brings an unusual combined quality to the British stage of flat-out vaudeville and Goon-like surrealism.
The first half hour is as funny as anything in London (Cal McCrystal, movement director on One Man, Two Guvnors, is a long-time Spymonkey associate) as the story is set up in the context of critical disapproval, and one critic’s disapproval in particular: a thumbs down from Joyce MacMillan that still rankles segues into a reassertion of principles and a determination to prove her wrong.
Their mission is only partially accomplished as the comic assault, a mix of National Theatre of Brent and Morecambe and Wise, is one of diminishing returns over two hours. But there are glorious scenes of madness with the reading of the Oracle, the encounter at the crossroads, the swelling of a baby’s ankles and the blinding with a brooch.
Not to mention, as the director Emma Rice (from Kneehigh) herself puts it, the endless possibilities of masks, choral speaking, shagging your mum and killing your dad. There is a grim comic side to the extremes of any tragedy, and of course Oedipus by Sophocles has the lot.
Petra Massey & Aitor Basauri in Oedipussy. Photo credit: Johan PerrsonThe text is written by Carl Grose with the company, and the balance in the performers tilts heavily towards the ecstatic zaniness of hairy-chested Aitor Basauri and the rude glamour of Petra Massey – who suddenly appears, for no good reason, stark naked in the Peal and Dean white columns of Michael Vale’s garishly lit (by Phil Supple) mock classical set.
But Stephan Kreiss as the manly incestuous hero and Toby Park as – well, I’m not sure what, exactly; loads of people and things – have their moments, too.
The show, which puts an intriguing spotlight on what is virtually an alternative subculture in our theatrical ecology is presented in association with the Royal and Derngate, Northampton.